By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
FRANKTON, Ind. —
The Frankton-Lapel school board made an unpopular decision to a standing-room only crowd Thursday night at a meeting. And many of their constituents let them know.
Jerry Hoss Jr., principal of Frankton Jr.-Sr. High school, had his contract terminated by the seven-member board, a decision met with instant anger.
"This is a difficult decision, and none of us take it lightly," said board member Alan Bays as he moved for the termination.
The board unanimously voted in agreement. Hoss walked out of the room immediately after the decision, but roughly 50 people, many students, filling the typically empty room in the Frankton-Lapel administrative building spoke for him as he left.
Parents screamed their disapproval. A row of students started crying as the decision was handed down. People threatened to vote out the entire board in the next election. Nearly half of the crowd stormed out of the room after saying their peace.
"This is wrong!" yelled one parent.
The board declined to discuss the specifics of why Hoss was fired, but open comments from those in attendance made it clear there was an investigation of text messages Hoss had sent to a student earlier this year.
Hoss' wife Jenny, who stayed behind briefly to defend her husband, said she was with him when he sent the messages in question and she read them. She and a group of friends and family vociferously attacked the board members before leaving.
"Shame on all of you. If you can go back to your lives and sleep at night after making a decision like this, you're not good enough for Jerry Hoss," the former principal's wife said.
The content of the messages is unclear and wasn't discussed in any way by the board members, who said they can't discuss personnel decisions, but Jenny Hoss voiced her concern that record of "inappropriate contact with a student" would impact Hoss' ability to get another job in education.
Superintendent Robert Fields assured her the reason for the termination was not made public, and won't be.
"The next time you hear from us will be from our lawyer," Jenny Hoss said before leaving.
The bitter tone of the meeting didn't abate as people left. Several parents called Fields' dedication into question, saying he and the other board members never came to the school. Fields said he regularly visits all the schools in the corporation.
"You're absolutely wrong about that. And I care about this school system," Fields said.
The decision was admittedly a difficult one, several board members said, and it weighed heavily on their minds leading up to the vote. Brian Gill, a friend of Hoss, said the decision was particularly tormenting for him, but he couldn't let his personal feelings interfere with the right decision for the school corporation.
"This was very difficult for all of us,” Gill said. “It will be hard for some of us to sleep knowing we had to do this, but we have to think about what's best for the schools here."
John Delph, a parent and Frankton assistant football coach, said his biggest concern is about where the high school goes from here, and that any new principal would need time to build what Hoss already had. Because the school district is charged with fulfilling its contracts, Hoss will be paid for the rest of the year. Essentially, the principal position will be paid twice. According to Fields, assistant principal Jim Morehead will take over as interim principal until the position can be evaluated.
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